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That kind of Life was most fitting for him for whom this Treatise was made
BY that which I have said thou mayest partly understand the differences between one and another of the aforesaid three kinds of lives; and thou mayest by what I have said also judge which of them best fitteth thee, since that our Lord hath ordained and set thee in a state of superiority (of such nature as it is) and authority over others, and hath lent thee some store of worldly goods and lands, by the which thou mayest not only maintain and sustain thyself, but also all those other special persons that are under thy authority and government, and mightest withal govern them according to thy best knowledge and ability; and therewith also thou hast, through the goodness of our Lord, received from Him the grace for to know thyself, and a spiritual desire and taste of His love. I am of the mind that the life which I have termed to be mixed is best and most befitting thee; and thou accordingly to divide and dispose of thy time wisely and to the satisfaction of the foresaid rule of charity. For know thou well that if thou leave the necessary business or the active life belonging to thee, and be careless, and take no heed of thy worldly goods as how they be kept or spent, nor lookest after those that pertain to thy charge to see they do well, nor wilt afford thy help upon the necessity of thy Christian brother by reason of thy love and desire thou hast to apply thyself only to solitude and spiritual exercises, imagining that by so doing thou art excused and freed from thy foresaid obligations. If, I say, thou do so, thou dost not wisely nor profitably for thy soul; for what are thy works or exercises worth (be they spiritual or corporal) unless they be done according to justice and reason, to the honour of God and agreeable to His will? surely they are even nothing worth. Therefore if thou leave or neglect that thing which thou art bound unto by the law of charity, justice or other obligation, and wilt entirely give thee to another thing, voluntarily taken on thee, under pretense of better pleasing and serving of God, in a thing which thou art not bound unto, in so doing thou dost no discreet or acceptable service to Him. In so doing thou art careful to do honour and worship to His head and to His face, and to deck and adorn them fairly and curiously, but thou neglectest and leavest His body, with the feet, ragged and rent, and takest no care nor heed of them, nor dost thou anything honour Him; and it is but a shame and an indignity and no kind of honour for a man to be curiously dressed and decked about his head with pearls and precious stones, and therewith to have all his body naked and bare, as it were a beggar. Even so spiritually, it is no honour to God for one to crown His head and leave His body bare; for thou must understand that our Lord Jesus Christ, as a man, is the head of His spiritual body, which is the holy Church, the members or limbs of His body are all Christian men, some are arms, some are feet, and some are other members, according to the qualities, condition or estates they are of in the holy Church.
And now if thou be diligent with all thy skill and ability for to deck and adorn His head, that is, for to honour Him with the remembrance of His passion and of His other works done in His humanity, with devotion, love and thanks to Him for the same, and forgettest or neglectest His feet (which are thy children, thy servants, thy tenants and all thy Christian brethren) and lettest them to decay or perish for want of looking to, or to want clothing sufficient, or other necessaries, or otherwise not looked unto and provided for as they ought to be, then dost thou not please Him, nor doest Him any honour; thou seemest to kiss His mouth by devotion and spiritual prayer, but thou treadest upon His feet, and defilest them, inasmuch as thou wilt not tend to them (through thy negligence) that belong to thy charge and care. This is my opinion and advice to thee in this point; nevertheless if thou be of the mind that I say not aright in this matter, for that thou thinkest it were a fairer and more pleasing office to God for to do honour to His head, as to be all day devoutly thinking of His passion, and producing acts of inward affection upon it, than for to go home to other works that are more external, and make clean His feet, as for to employ thyself both in words and deeds about the helping or benefiting of thy Christian brethren, in so thinking thou thinkest amiss, and mistakest. For surely he will more thank thee and reward thee for the humble washing of His feet when they are very foul, and yield an ill savour to thee, than for all the curious painting and fair dressing or decking that thou canst make about His head, by the devoutest remembrance of His humanity; for it is fair enough, and needeth not much decking or dressing from thee; but for His feet, and other His limbs, that are sometimes ill-arrayed, and have need to be holpen by thee (namely, since thou art bound thereto), our Lord will render thee more thanks, if thou wilt humbly and charitably look unto them.
For the lower or meaner that the service which thou dost to thy Lord seemeth to be, in regard they are performed towards His members, and not immediately towards Himself, yet doing it for the love of Him, when reasonable occasions or need require it, and that with a cheerful and humble heart, thou much more pleasest Him than in service immediately done to Himself with omission of these offices of need or charity towards thy Christian brethren. And that thou mayest be the more willing to go about such an employment, thou shalt do well to think that it is sufficient, and best of all for thee to be employed in the very least degree, and lowest estate of His service, especially since it is His will that it be so. For thou must think, that since He hath put thee into that charge and estate of life, that it is the very best for thee, and that thou canst not do better than in performing what belongs thereto in the best manner and with all the willingness and gladness of mind that thou art able.
This I tell thee not as though that already thou dost it not, and better too; but to the end that thou shouldst do it with more alacrity and cheerfulness by occasion of this my writing; and shouldst not think it much sometimes to lessen or forbear thy spiritual exercise for to go and deal in worldly affairs pertaining to thee and thy estate, as to the looking and seeing too, that thy goods be well kept and spent according to reason, looking to the behaviour of thy servants and thy tenants, and doing other good deeds towards thy Christian brethren according to thy ability and their need, but shouldst perform both these works and exercises, that is to say, the internal and external, at divers and several times, and with as good a will the one as the other, so far as thou canst. As for example, if thou hast been at thy prayer and spiritual exercise, that finished thou shalt go and busy thyself in some corporal or external doing concerning thy Christian brethren, and therefore spend reasonable time with willingness and gladness of mind. And after that thou hast been busily employed for a time about thy servants, and other men with whom thou shalt have occasions, and hast profitably spent with them so much time as shall be truly needful, thou shalt then break from these external doings, and shalt return again to thy prayers and devotions, which thou shalt perform according to the grace that God shall give thee for it; and so doing, thou, by the grace of our Lord, shalt put away and avoid sloth, laziness, idleness and vain rest, which often creep upon us through the deceitfulness of our nature, under pretense or colour of contemplation or other spiritual recollections; whereby we come to omit the performance of good and meritorious external affairs and businesses pertaining to us and our charge by the appointment or providence of God. And thus thou shalt be always in some good exercise or other, internal or external, by turns, and in their proper times.
Therefore thou shalt do well to observe and do that spiritually, that is, in thy carriage in a spiritual life, which Jacob did in a matter that was only corporal or external. The holy Scripture telleth, how that Jacob, when he began to serve his master Laban, he coveted Rachel his master's daughter for her fairness to be his wife, and for the having of her he served seven years; but when he had thought for to have had her to his wife, he had first Leah, the other daughter, instead of Rachel, and afterwards he takes Rachel, and so he had both at the last. By Jacob in holy Scripture is understood an overcomer of sins; by those two wives are understood, as St Gregory saith, the two kinds of lives that are in the holy Church, which are the active life and the contemplative life. Leah is as much to say as labour and painful working, and betokeneth the active life. Rachel is as much as to say as a sight of the beginning, which is God, and betokeneth the contemplative life. Leah bore children, but she was sore-eyed. Rachel was fair and lovely, but she was barren. And now even as Jacob coveted Rachel for her fairness, and yet had her not when he would, but first took Lead and afterwards Rachel, even so, every man labouring, and heartily seeking (by compunction for his former great sins of the flesh and of the world) now to become a new servant to God in cleanness of good living, hath a great desire to have and come by Rachel, which is to have rest in spiritual sweetness, devotion and contemplation, for it is so fair, and so lovely a life, that in hope for to have it he determined with himself, by the grace of our Lord, for to serve Him with all his diligence and might; but oft-times when he thinketh to have Rachel, that is, rest in devotion, our Lord suffereth him to be well exercised and tried, either with the temptations of the world, or of the devil, or of his flesh, or else with some external businesses and doing, corporal or spiritual, in help or succour of his Christian brethren; and when he is thus well exercised, and in travails with Leah, and is well-nigh overcome, then our Lord giveth him Rachel, that is, grace and devotion, and rest in conscience, and then hath he both Rachel and Leah.
So shalt thou do, according to the example of Jacob, these two lives, active and contemplative, since God calleth and enableth thee for both, and use the one with the other of them. By the one life (which is the active) thou shalt bring forth the fruit of many good deeds in help of thy Christian brethren; and by the other shalt thou be made to become fair, clear-sighted and clean in the supreme brightness and beauty, which is God, the beginner and ender of all that is made, and then shalt thou be truly Jacob, and an out-goer and overcomer of all sins; and after that, by the grace of God, thy name shall be changed, as Jacob's name was, and turned into Israel, and Israel is as much as to say: a man seeing God. Therefore, if thou be first Jacob, and will discreetly use these two lives afterwards, in time thou shalt be Israel, that is, a true Contemplative, either in this life, if God will deliver thee, and make thee free from the charges and businesses which thou art bound to, or else after this life, fully and perfectly in the bliss of heaven when thou comest thither. A man shall desire a contemplative life, for it is fair and full of merit, therefore thou shalt ever have it in thy mind, and in thy desire; but thou shalt have in using active life, for it is both expedient and necessary. Therefore, if upon just occasions, either concerning thy children or thy servants or any other of thy Christian brethren, for their profit or their heart's ease, upon reasonable cause, asking it of thee, thou be put from thy rest in devotion, when thou hadst much rather stay still thereat, be not angry with them, nor heavy or sad within thyself, so far as thou art able to help it, nor afraid, as if God would be angry with thee, that thou leavest Him for any other business or doing, for He will not be angry but well pleased and delighted thou so do. And therefore in such a case readily leave off thy devotion of what kind soever it be, and go about the deed, being service to thy Christian brethren, and that as willing and readily, as if our Lord Himself had called and bidden thee to go about it. Do so, I say, and endure the difficulty thou findest in it for His love; and put away all grudging for it, so far as thou canst; as also all bitterness and offence taken against thy Christian brother for calling thee to the said employment.
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